As fighting between army, civil forces intensifies in Myanmar, people cross over to India
Guwahati/Aizawl, Nov 21 (IANS) Several people from the neighbouring Myanmar have crossed over to the Indian territory as fighting between the army and civil forces intensified there, an official said on Tuesday.
General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Indian Army's Eastern Command, Lt Gen Rana Pratap Kalita, speaking in this connection, said when fighting intensifies in Myanmar, people of the neighbouring country cross over to the Indian side and gradually return to their homeland.
Lt Gen Kalita, who was in Guwahati in connection with the Rising Sun Water Fest-23 at Deepor Beel, said that common villagers across the borders seeking refugees are not stopped.
"Any instability in India’s neighbourhood is not in our interest, it impacts us as we share a common border. The problem of India-Myanmar gets accentuated by difficult geography and terrain," he told the media, adding that when fighting stepped up between the Myanmar army and pro-democracy forces, people living along the border crossed over, and later, some went back and some stayed back.
"People of either side of the porous border share common ethnicity. Free Movement Regime (FMR) also exists though it was suspended during the Covid-19 pandemic. However people have become so used to it. Sometimes it becomes difficult to identify who are people from our country and who are of neighbouring countries," the army officer said.
FMR allows people residing on both sides of India-Myanmar border to venture 16 km deep into each other's territory without any document.
The army officer further said that there are some limited numbers of people of Myanmar who sought shelter in Manipur and larger numbers in Mizoram.
Saying that clear directions were given that no armed cadres are allowed to enter, he informed that there is a process being followed in consultation with the state government.
"The Centre asked the state government to identify all these people (migrants from across the border), record biometric information, establish camps, and keep them localised. Records are being maintained ensuring that these immigrants are not part of any militant outfit. There has been recovery of a lot of contraband drugs and narcotics from people who are coming, so we are keeping a very close eye on drug peddlers."
When Myanmar army personnel were recently seeking refuge in Mizoram, they were allowed after separating their weapons and proper identification and subsequently they were taken to Manipur border town Moreh and then handed over to Myanmar authorities, Lt Gen Kalita said.
Fencing work along the India-Myanmar border has started and in a phased manner, the 1,643 km frontier would be fenced, he added.
Recently, 74 Myanmar soldiers including officers fled to Indian territory after their camps in Chin state were captured by the Chin National Defence Force (CNDF), the armed wing of the Chin National Organisation (CNO).
Myanmar soldiers were apprehended by the Mizoram police in Champhai district and immediately handed over them to the Assam Rifles.
Besides soldiers, around 1,400 Myanmarese, including women and children, took shelter in Mizoram's Champhai district last week following the gunfight between the Myanmar's Tatmadaw (military) and CNDF cadres.
The district administration has provided food and relief materials to the refugees.
Necessary medical aid was also given to those hapless evacuees.
The first influx from Myanmar happened in February 2021 after the Military junta seized power.
Since then, 32,000 people including women and children from Myanmar have taken shelter in the northeastern state.
A majority of the refugees live in relief camps and government buildings, while many others are accommodated by their relatives and a large number of people of Myanmar have been staying in rented houses. Mizoram's six districts -- Champhai, Siaha, Lawngtlai, Serchhip, Hnahthial and Saitual -- share a 510-km-long unfenced and mountainous border with Myanmar's Chin state.
The Assam Rifles, guarding the unfenced 1,643-km India-Myanmar border has stepped up its vigilance along the frontier.